With all of the attention being given to Donald Trump as the likely GOP nominee, there’s a problem that nobody seems to be discussing. Even if Trump wins Ohio and Florida, his path to the nomination is greatly hampered if Marco Rubio and John Kasich drop out. In fact, winning their states and knocking them out might be the worst thing that Trump could do.
Around 70% of Rubio’s supporters and 60% of Kasich’s supporters prefer Ted Cruz over Donald Trump. In a recent head-to-head poll, Cruz destroys Trump. It’s not even close.
The states that follow Super Tuesday are a mix of proportional and winner-take-all. The proportional states will be a wash; chances are strong that in a two-man race they’ll split delegates in those states. It’s the winner-take-all states where it gets interesting. In nearly all of them other than New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware, Cruz will be favored. The closest battle happens to be the most important. California, which doesn’t vote until June 7 (the last primary day of the season), California’s 172 delegates will be up for grabs. Cruz is currently favored there but the data is old. There’s no way to even speculate at this point what campaign conditions will be like in June.
If we take off the rose-colored glasses, we can assume that Trump will likely win at least a couple more than the three winner-take-all states he’s favored in even if Rubio and Kasich drop out soon. In that scenario, neither candidate will be able to win the necessary delegates to earn the nomination outright, in which case it may (should) come down to nominating the candidate with the most delegates going into a contested convention. To do otherwise would dismantle the Republican party.
Winner-take-all states represent over 1000 delegates to be distributed after Super Tuesday. That means that if Kasich and Rubio drop out, Cruz would be favored in all but three of them and would have an easier path to having the most delegates if not a majority when the last vote is cast.